In conversation with Wide Mouth Mason
Saskatoon blues-rock trio Wide Mouth Mason have been making their way in the music scene for the past 19 years. The band’s most recent album, No Bad Days was released in 2011.
The band consists of Shaun Verreault on lead vocals and guitar, Safwan Javed on drums and backup vocals, and Gordie Johnson on bass and backup vocals.
This week, The Weal interviewed Javed to find out what’s in store for students at the Oct. 13 show at the Gateway.
Doors open at 8 p.m. Tickets are available at www.ticketmaster.com.
The Weal: What is the inspiration behind the band’s name? Why did you choose it?
Safwan Javed: We needed a name. We decided to make up our own—and we were into jazz at that point. Often, bluesmen of the U.S. South have very interesting names. One day we were sitting around at one of the gigs we were doing and I was drinking lemonade out of a mason jar, and I said, “Wide Mouth Mason. That sounds like an old blues guy,” and then we were all like, “maybe we should call the band that.”
The Weal: How would you describe the music Wide Mouth Mason plays?
Safwan Javed: It’s influenced by a bunch of different stuff. At the end of the day it’s rock music, but I think you could hear the blues influence—certainly in Shaun’s voice I think you can hear the old-school soul-R & B influence, sort of reminiscent of old Motown or Stacks-era recordings and artists. Subtly there’s some jazz influence; the whole jam-band thing, from The Black Crows and North Mississippi All-Star and Gov’t Mule kind of world. That’s sort of a big part of what we do live. We improvise and go off on tangents, which is a tradition. I think that jazz really embraced. I think we were a jam-band before there was the term “jam-band.”
The Weal: How has the band evolved since when you first came together in 1995?
Safwan Javed: We’ve always gone in different directions with different records. That was more musical experimentation, but I think we’re at the point now where we know what Wide Mouth Mason is, so when we make a record it’s going to feed back into that narrative. When we experiment it’s less in terms of musical genres and more in terms of hybridizing those genres—improvising and going on tangents within songs and within shows. I think in terms of our sound we’re more comfortable in our own skin, so to speak.
The Weal: Other than music, do you have any hidden talents?
Safwan Javed: (Laughs) We’ve all got weird things, I think. I can do some pretty weird things with my toes. I can fold them under my feet and just sit like that and the other guys think that’s really weird. Shaun can open a beer bottle with just about any inanimate object whatsoever— I don’t think he can do it with wine bottles yet. Gordie’s a pretty good cook, or so he says. I’ve only had [Gordie’s] pancakes and they were really good.
The Weal: What is your pre-show ritual to get you amped up? Do you have any quirky habits?
Safwan Javed: I eat a lot, which they say is not that smart because it slows you down and your metabolism goes to a weird place, but I tend to like it. I eat whatever’s around. I like to loosen up a little bit, I have a hands-and-feet routine that I do that kind of limbers me up to play. A lot of the time we’re making fun of each other, that’s probably the most consistent routine. It could be insulting if construed a certain way but we have thick enough skin and we’ve been around each other long enough to know it’s coming from a joyful and jestful place.
The Weal: What do you hope is going to happen when you perform at the Gateway?
Safwan Javed: Well we’ve had some good shows in Calgary in general… so I hope more of the same; that there’s a boisterous and attentive crowd that’s into what we’re doing.